1986, Barry McQuiston, Bicycling, College Park Bicycles, Geoff Tyson, Jean Tierney, Kneel Brothers, Montgomery County, Mrayland, Nicolette Buchanan, Olney Cyclery, Potomac Pedalers, Tony Kneel, UMCP, Wheaton Plaza
After a few miles together Nicolette and I jell as a team and her small size and high power to weight ratio is a blessing as we make our way on the forty-mile jaunt. The ride goes well, but as the day progresses traffic gets heavier, especially as we ride closer to, rather than farther from, the Beltway. By the time we’re on the final stretch of road, heading southwest on Sandy Spring Road just south of Georgia Avenue, I’m white knuckling the handlebar. The area is a retail district replete with grocery stores and small businesses, and traffic feels impatient. With just over a mile remaining, a north-west bound driver turns across the two south bound lanes and strikes the back of my tandem, slamming us to the ground.
I lie on the pavement, stunned and disoriented, and when my eyes refocus I find a septuagenarian shaking visibly, his car door wide open. Our fellow riders come to a stop. Someone nearby runs into a store and calls 911. “Oh, Jesus!” the old man says, “I thought I had time,” he declares, immediately contradicting himself by adding, “I didn’t see you!” I remain on the ground as people gather.
When I started cycling in 1980 very few people cycled with crash-helmets. By mid-1986 helmets had become far more popular and most Potomac Pedalers wore them. Nicolette and I did, and I rose from the ground a bit stunned but without obvious injury. Nicolette did not.
Drivers have pulled over including a man in a pickup truck. “Hey,” he says, walking over to me, “you okay? I saw that guy hit you. I’m Barry McQuiston, I own Olney Cyclery.”
I nod, not sure what to say. “Yeah, I’m okay. How’s Nicolette?”
“Your stoker?” Barry asks. “Not sure. Ambulance is on the way.”
Montgomery General Hospital is half-a-mile away and the sound of the ambulance hits my ears as Geoff let’s his Ciocc hit the ground. I walk to him and say the first thing that comes to mind, “She’s okay. Someone called an ambulance: They’re on their way.” Geoff moves me to the side without a word and kneels by Nicolette.
The ambulance arrives. Nicolette is transported to Montgomery General. Barry asks me if I need a ride somewhere.
“Uhm, yeah. Yes. Please.” He places my tandem with its tacoed rear wheel into his truck’s bed and drives me to my parents’ home while advising me to go to the doctor and get checked out. Once we’re at my parents he reminds me that he own’s Olney Cyclery and can help with my tandem. I nod, say, “Thank you,” as he lifts the tandem to the ground and I assure him that I will see a doctor. Barry drives away with a wave.
I grab my mother’s car-keys and drive myself to Montgomery General, figuring this is one of those easier to get forgiveness rather than permission moments. The E.R. doc checks me out and assures me that I’m okay, just likely to be sore for a few days. Out in the lobby I inquire about Nicolette, but the only information I am given is that she had been transported to the hospital and released. I’m relieved.
I was relieved and thought about calling to inquire how she was. I thought about it, but the memory of Geoff’s big strong hands moving me bodily out of the way so he could get to her curbed that notion. Instead I went home, took an ice bath and called Jean. I told her how much I loved her, told her what had happened and that I was fine. She asked about my stoker. I said she’d been transported by ambulance to the hospital and released. We reiterated our love for one another, Jean told me to be careful and we hung up.
I took my tandem back to College Park Bikes where I’d purchased it in the spring of ’85 and got it repaired there. I thought about calling Nicolette, but I didn’t. Instead, I said goodbye to Maryland, slunk away from a state where I had supposedly grown from a boy to a man and after marrying Jean, moved to Atlanta. I never heard from nor about Nicolette Buchanan or Geoff Tyson ever again.